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An incorrectly captioned photo went viral in the Bangladeshi social network recently. The, Pulitzer Prize finalist, Ellen Barry, wrote a piece titled Matriarchs’ Duel for Power Threatens to Tilt Bangladesh Off Balance in NYT where a photo claimed to be of a demonstration by Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the second largest political party in Bangladesh. Let’s take a look at it.

Lucky Akhter of the Shahbag Movement in a demonstration which NYT mistakenly claimed to be a BNP demonstration

Lucky Akhter of the Shahbag Movement in a demonstration which NYT mistakenly claimed to be a BNP demonstration

Those who have the slightest idea about the famous Shahbag movement have readily recognized one of the organizers of the Gonojagoron Moncho, Lucky Akhter. She has already got famous because of the voice there. A couple of song actually mentioned her in that reference. Everyone knows that with Lucky Akhter at the foreground this photographer can be anything but not a BNP demonstration. Period.

I understand that some of my readers may still give benefit of doubt to the photographer A.M. Ahad who works for Associated Press. I agree that he may have just mistakenly captioned the picture or he may not know Lucky Akhter. Does he deserve that benefit of doubt? Let’s take a look at a conversation between him and me on February 6, 2013 – the very next day when the Shahbag Movement started. For privacy issue, I have masked his phone number and email address.

When Ahad made his very first report on Shahbag Movement he did the same thing. He mislabelled  the photograph and when I sent him an email raising the issue he just lied.

Subject: Caption of one of your photographs

 

Abu Mohammad Omar Shehab Uddin Ayub <shehab1@umbc.edu> Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 11:16 PM To: “A.M. Ahad” <ahadanmol@xyz.com>

Hi Ahad,

Thank you very much for the information. Just to verify, please tell me the name of the members of Bangladesh Chatra League you know. I will try to match the head count and see whether your claim is accurate. I understand that it will be difficult to name thousands of activist. Please at least tell the names of the Chatra League members who held a microphone and gave a speech. If the 50% of the people who gave speeches are from Chatro League I will try to extrapolate it for the whole attendance.

You are not the only one I know who was present there. I am surprised to see that ALL OTHER people I know who were at Shahbag had a totally different experience. I would love to see the whole picture. Thanks again for your reply.

Regards,

Shehab

PhD student, Dept. of CSEE

(443) xxx – xxxx

http://www.umbc.edu/~shehab1

On Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 11:02 PM, A.M. Ahad <ahadanmol@xyz.com> wrote:

Hello Mr. Shehab,

Thanks for your mail. Brother, I was in spot, and I know very well who is who. Their 50% protesters are activist of Bangladesh Chatra League. I’m going journalism, I’m not vies from anyone. So make sure first.

Thanks,

Ahad.

On Thu, Feb 7, 2013 at 3:40 AM, Abu Mohammad Omar Shehab Uddin Ayub <shehab1@umbc.edu> wrote:

Hi Mr. Ahad,

Greetings from Baltimore. I am writing this email in reference to the photograph taken by you and later published by Washington Post captioned as follows:

Feb. 6, 2013

Pro-government activists and other Bangladeshi people gather for a protest in Dhaka, Bangladesh, demanding the death penalty for Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah. The leader of Bangladesh’s largest Islamic party on Tuesday was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in a series of killings during the country’s 1971 war for independence.

A.M. Ahad / AP

Could you please revise the caption as to my knowledge the demonstration is not led or organized by pro-government people. Rather it is organized by pro-Bangladesh people.

Regards,

Shehab

PhD student,

Dept. of CSEE

(443) xxx – xxxx

http://www.umbc.edu/~shehab1

— A.M.Ahad

Photojournalist xy, Shewrapara, Mirpur, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Mobile: +880171633xxxx / +880167500xxxx

I hope Ellen Barry will know sooner or later that her colleague has cheated her and it may not be the first time.

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This report is comparatively much better than some other news articles I have already reviewed in this blog. But to not surprise me, it had at least one terribly wrong information and several attempts of presenting partial pictures. Let us start with some quick info about the article:

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/27/world/asia/bangladesh-protests

Title: Seeking war crimes justice, Bangladesh protesters fight ‘anti-Islam’ label
Authors: Farid Ahmed from Dhaka and Elizabeth Yuan from Hong Kong
Contributors: Christina Zdanowicz and Henry Hanks from Atlanta and Sarah Brown from London
Date of publication: February 28, 2013

The article started with a nice introduction about what is going on in Shahbag. After a fairly written starting I was expecting at least same quality when I started reading the ‘Genesis’ section. But I was surprised reading this. Please allow me to quote here.

Sayedee, a two-time member of Bangladesh’s parliament, responded that the court “has done injustice” to him. His lawyer, Abdur Razzak, said the sentence would be appealed.

So, this CNN piece says Sayedee was a two-time member of the national assembly. It is true that Sayedee was elected twice. But what about this? On September 14, 2003, the court gave the verdict that the election of Sayedee as a member of the parliament was illegal. The verdict considered  Sayedee’s hate speech against religious minority and spending over the allowed limit set by the election commission as serious violations of the election law.  The court also ordered the government to remove him from the parliament and recognize Sudhangshu Shekhor Haldar as the parliament member instead. This verdict was reported in both the most circulated national Bangla and English dailies. As the then government was led by Jamaat’s chief ally, BNP, this order was never carried out. Dear reader, my point is when you use the phrase ‘two-time member of Bangladesh’s parliament’ you give a reader, whose first language is English and may have heard of Bangladesh for the first time, that you are going to talk about a people’s representative. But when you include the fact that this guy was ordered to be removed from the parliament due to his corruption during the election process the readers’ minds know that they are about to know more about someone’s criminal activities. The pen of an author has this amazing power of setting up the mood or I should say a small universe of thought processes by presenting facts when and if needed. Shouldn’t I say that failure of mentioning such facts deceives the readers who might have been interested to correlate Sayedee and Jamaat’s works retrospectively?

Then we see a series of paragraphs reflecting a very nice and broad picture about the Shahbag movement and its background including our great liberation war and the international crime tribunal.

Another surprise was waiting for me in the criticism section. Allow me to quote that part.

As the protests grew, the parliament proposed an amendment to the law empowering the International Crimes Tribunal. Under the proposed amendment, the government can appeal any tribunal verdict, and Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said it plans to do so in Mollah’s case.

Protesters hailed the proposal, but human rights groups weren’t pleased.

“A government supposedly guided by the rule of law cannot simply pass retroactive laws to overrule court decisions when it doesn’t like them,” said Brad Adams, the Asia director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

The amendments “make a mockery of the trial process,” he added.

I would like to ask this question to my patient readers. Don’t you think that a law is unfair and biased if it gives only the defendant to appeal against a verdict and deprives the accuser to appeal if not happy? Is this a fair playing ground? What if the law would have permitted only the accuser to appeal against a verdict and deprived the defendant to appeal if not happy? Don’t you think that this CNN news report would have said in that case that the law is not fair and is technically flawed and biased. Don’t you think that such case would have made CNN to quote HRW, AI and other human rights watchdogs claiming the law to be modified and give the defendant the right to appeal retrospectively? Yes you are right! They would have done that and I think that’s perfectly fair. Why are then they painting a different color when the deprived party is the accuser in the case of ICT? Don’t the people who suffered from the atrocities of these monsters and represented by the prosecution have the right to receive justice? I would also like to humbly remind the reporters that the both the legal basis for the famous Nuremberg trial (London Charter on August 8, 1945) and the ICT Act 1973 itself were retrospective.

As I have said earlier without these scattered incorrect information and false representation of the picture, overall this article could have been an example to everyone about how a report on citizen movement should be written. I sincerely appreciate that unlike, Guardian, The Economist and Saudi Gezzette, the CNN reporters actually went to Shahbag, talked to people, quoted them and at least tried to understand what is the inner meanings of those demonstrations, protests and banners. It is an amazing report indeed.

It is not always possible for a reporter to estimate the impact of the article s/he is writing. So, trying to put statements as correct as possible backed with facts and rationale is very important just like we always try to write the code of a computer program as bug free as possible. I still thank CNN for taking interest in Bangladesh.

As I have said this is a live commentary on the press covering the ICT of Bangladesh, I am going to send my issues to the authors of this article. I will keep you posted in the comment section whether they agreed with me or not.

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